I hope that you enjoy reading about this ‘full story’ of what is behind the design of Cloud House.
The design of Cloud House strives to provide a ‘sense of belonging’ for its owners and with a ‘sense of place’ to ground the building within its context.
My clients’ challenging brief called for a versatile holiday house to accommodate their large family in a marina side location, an hour’s drive from their suburban homes in the capital city of Perth.
The brief called for a holiday house that uniquely contrasted their everyday suburban living.
In researching the site of Cloud House and aiming to achieve this sense of place, I referred to the illuminating map of Australia’s 260 Aboriginal nations rather than the arbitrary colonial State divisions.
The site is located in the South Western corner of Australia within the Aboriginal Noongar Nation, and specifically within the Pinjarup language group of the Noongar people.Central to the creator beliefs of the Noongar people is the Wagyl, a large snake-like creature that was created by the Rainbow Serpent. The Wagyl was tasked to create, then protect, the rivers, lakes, and wetlands.
Noongar country aligns closely along the South West Indian Ocean drainage region, and the Noongar use of these waters played an important seasonal part in their culture.
The Darling Range is said to represent the body of the Wagyl, which meandered over the land creating the curves and contours of the hills and gullies, its body scoured out the course of the rivers; where it occasionally stopped for a rest, creating bays, lakes and wetlands.
The Wagyl made its way along the coast before giving birth to its young in the estuary, being the vast waterway of the Peel Inlet, an area of water equivalent to the size of Sydney Harbor.
This makes the Peel Inlet a place of significance as the Wagyl’s young grew within the waters of the Inlet before leaving to create the surrounding waterways.
The site of Cloud House is located adjacent to the Mandurah Channel, being the pivotal point at which the Wagyl came out of the Indian Ocean to create the vast waterways of the Peel Inlet.
The natural elements of ‘place’ include prevailing cold winds from the south west, sunrise obscured by adjoining buildings to the east, and views across the ocean and marina from the north west through to the south east.
Outlook to the west over the Indian Ocean provides an expansive vista of the vibrant colours that colour the enormous southern skies.
On most days the sky is a vivid blue that deepens into striking red and orange sunsets over the adjacent ocean with clouds capturing and transforming the view.
The Cloud House model offers a socially efficient and economical alternative for multi-generational living. My client’s family lives in four separate suburban houses, and they all come together to live within the smaller footprint of Cloud House.
The family is accommodated in an ‘apartment’ typology, where vertical zoning allows independent living.
The vertical zoning allows opportunities for spaces to relate between floors, enabling the family to holiday together as one if they so choose.
The family zoning between floors can be seen here in the floor plans of all three levels.
Great Grandparents are accommodated on the ground floor, adult children on the middle level and the Grandparents and their Grandchildren on the top floor.
The ground floor level provides vehicle and pedestrian entry, the laundry, and accommodation for the Great Grandparents that includes their own kitchenette and living space fronting the marina.
The first floor provides the largest of the living, dining and kitchen spaces for the whole family to congregate, along with bedrooms for the adult children.
The second floor contains the Grand children’s bedrooms and bathroom at one end, and at the other end, the Grandparents own bedroom, study, kitchenette and sitting area. This level also has the largest outdoor spaces.
The roof plan that reflects the past and the present of ‘this place’ through incorporating the slithering curves of the Wagyl and the colourful cloud filled skies.
The distinct naturally occurring colours of ‘this place’ are almost mirrored in the building fabric.
This house also incorporates contemporary connections to place through the colours of nautical navigation; red, green and blue, as found in the colours of the projecting awnings over windows.
The nautical flags of the boats and the sails of the yachts in the marina are referenced through the use of the external roller blinds which take on the same nautical colours.
All of this is visually unified through the grid of the expressed external structure, which reflects the urban grid of the streetscapes of current day Mandurah, while evoking the feeling of robust wharf side buildings.
All of the unique elements of ‘this place’ come together within the framework of the building’s exoskeleton.
The concrete exoskeleton of expressed floor slabs and columns became an honest expression of the buildings structure, where no internal mid-span structural support was required.
All internal walls are from timber framed construction, thereby providing an opportunity for future adaptability and a sustainable future for the structural envelope.
Cloud House in its setting as a bookend to the marina front housing with public open space on three sides.
The site sits at the point of divide between the residential area and the semi-industrial like area of boat ramp, public parking and boat servicing yards.
Here you can see the ‘bookend’ building as it sits in the transition zone between the residential area and the activities of public open space.
Inspiration was taken from the work of Australian artist Jeffrey Smart, whose graphic representations of industrial landscapes and playful allusions were a fit for the more robust semi-industrial marina side activities of the site.
The coloured external roller blinds resolve a number of contextual and environmental issues including the buildings conflict of major views to the west, factors of sun and wind and privacy from the adjacent public open space.
The buildings appearance changes as blinds open and close, to either appear as a solid object when closed, or to reveal a series of recesses or voids in the façade when a blind is opened.
The changing imagery of blinds reflects the nature of signals being sent by nautical flags.
By night the building is a navigational outpost, like a lighthouse, sending signals to the boats on the ocean entering the adjacent Mandurah Channel.
Recessive spaces become solid with the closing of the blinds.
Living spaces evoke the feeling of being on the balcony itself, through full height stacking sliding doors, level thresholds and consistent floor materials.
Highlight windows allow morning to mid-day sun to spill through the central void space to counter the fact that the living areas all face south and west to take in the best views.
The elements of ‘this place’ flow through from the outside as you can see here with the ‘cloud’ shaped bulkhead around the ceiling void, and the nautical colours reflected in elements of the cabinetwork.
Timber from the external wall cladding blurs the boundaries as it continues to internal walls.
Details reflect the fluid lines of the Rainbow Serpent, nautical & cloud referencing.
The stairwell becomes a playful journey, reinforcing the nautical colours.
The grandparents’ zone which includes a sitting room that opens to its own balcony and study area with void connection to the floor below.
The fun continues with ceiling profiles that roll like the underside of a cloud, and a ladder leading to the grand-children’s cubby area below the main roof.
The Grandparents bedroom has its own rolling cloud ceiling, and looks out through its balcony cloister, which can become completely private through the closing of the external roller blinds in what is a very public area, adjacent to the boat ramp.
If you have ever experienced launching a boat from a public boat ramp, you will realise that boat ramps are places of high drama and theatre.
With a public boat ramp less than 50 meters away, Cloud House itself becomes part of the theatre and drama as it provides an ever-changing backdrop to the drama of the boat launching.
Cloud House as a landmark, that reflects the essence of the past and present of ‘this place’, while providing the family with the opportunity to come together and enjoy multigenerational living.
A place to accumulate memories and a place to dream.